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How Do Dragons Cough?

September 21, 2013

It’s not the 5.30am starts or the sole responsibility for nappy changing, or even the shuttle at bath and bedtime  with milk, toothbrushes and towels that I find difficult.  No.  When A is away, as he is at the moment (on a work trip to the Maldives – I kid you not) the thing that I find hardest to deal with are the questions.  

H is constantly asking questions.  These are not the “Can I have some milk please?” type questions, although I get plenty of those too.  These are ‘stop and think and wonder “What On Earth?”‘ kind of questions.  They’re the type of questions that I promised myself, before I had children, that I would answer properly and considerately and with due care and attention.  And then they started. 

This morning alone we had:

– What are feelings? (This was before 5.30am)

– What is a trapdoor?  (I found this one surprisingly hard to explain, but then I’d just finished my analysis of feelings, so I wasn’t quite in the trapdoor zone.)

– What’s a waterfall noise?  (I never quite worked out what that meant, but he seemed satisfied when I turned the tap on.)

– What are big bits of dust? and its follow-up:

– Do big bits of dust come out of little dust? (We’re keen on dust at the moment.  I don’t know why.)

– Do you like air? (Never thought I had to have an opinion.  I do now.  And yes, I’m quite fond of air as it happens.)  

And then my favourite:

– How do dragons cough?   He answered this one himself after I played my ‘get out of jail free’ card and asked him how he thought that dragons coughed.  Apparently they cough fire.  So now you know.

I think I’m getting quite used to answering questions.  I’m certainly getting used to the looks on my friends’ faces when H comes in with yet another ‘thought for the day’ as they wait to see what I’m going to say.  The latest was “What is nature?”.  Response: Everything that God has made; and the follow-up “Can I shoot it?”.  Response: I’d rather you didn’t. And in any case you’re only 3 and you live (usually) in a country where the possession of firearms is, for the most part, happily illegal.  I didn’t say that last part. It would have led to many, many more questions.

That’s the key, I’ve discovered.  In a total contradiction of the way I thought I would be pre-children, the aim now, when answering questions, is to close down any potential for follow-up questions as quickly as possible without having to resort to the deadly “Just because it is!!!”.

And then there’s the realisation that there are a lot of things that I just don’t know.  

Things I didn’t know this week:

1. Where the brake is on a motorbike.  (In the end H found a motorbike and showed me where he thought the brake was.  I think he was right.)

2. How electricity works.  And that’s EXACTLY how electricity works, although I’m not sure I’ve even got a vague clue.  My Upper 4 physics teacher tried manfully with that one but, ultimately, failed.  Sorry about that, Mr Gibbs. No, really, I am very sorry.  It would be so much easier now if I had understood a word you were saying then.

3. Why is our car slower than other cars on the road when it’s so much bigger than they are.  I think I know the answer to that one, but I’m confident that even 2 follow-up questions down the road  and I’d be floundering. 

4. What vitamins are in cauliflower.  I was trying to get H to eat cauliflower.  He needed an incentive.  I failed to provide one.  He didn’t eat the cauliflower. 

5. Whether or not elephants have toes.  I know they have toe nails, but where are their toes?  Or their feet, for that matter?  They’ve just got leggy stumps with toe nails, as far as I can work it out.  

A’s not back for a few days, but I’m starting to think that, as of tomorrow, we might just have to start a little list of ‘Questions Mummy Can’t Answer (sub-heading “Because Answering Them Is Doing Her Head In”).  It will be a lovely little list for Daddy for when he gets home.  It will be a perfect opportunity for some father-son bonding time, and that’s what it’s all about…isn’t it?


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  1. Deeba Jafri permalink

    Lovely. I miss those days. Now mine just go to Wiki…(sigh)


  2. Brilliant. Bobs most recent question, whilst watching a 2 minute clip of Lucy Worsleys harlots, heroines and housewives, before we turned in over because the content was not appropriate for his father let alone a 10 year old boy, was what is a cliterous(?sp)…


  3. Aunty Ailsa permalink

    As an almost big brother, R feels it necessary to confirm to H that there are no vitamins whatsoever in cauliflower (except possibly anthrax). Cauliflower is evil and should be avoided at all costs. (Yes, cauliflower was on the menu in our house this evening!!!!).


    • This morning, out of nowhere, H asked where R lived and whether we could come for another sleepover. I think he felt the cauliflower solidarity in the air.


  4. iotamanhattan permalink

    Funnily enough, I was just pondering only today how my 9 year old (yes, NINE year old) still asks lots and lots of questions. So brace yourself, m’dear, because you’ve got years and years ahead of you. Soon after 9, though, I think they decide they know it all, and stop asking you anything. Then the tables turn, and it’s you asking them stuff.

    “What exactly do you have to do in Grand Theft Auto? Why is it so popular?”

    “You’re doing GCSE History. What was the Battle of the Bulge?”

    “Who’s Paolo di Canio, anyway?”

    “Why do you all assume I’m going to load the dishwasher, when there are 5 people in the room who could do so?”


  5. I read this and remembered someone recently telling me that someone (give the man a medal) has actually bothered to research how many questions a small child asks in a day.

    It’s a terrifying number.

    I thought I’d look it up and put it in here in solidarity with you.

    Here it is:

    Apparently the average four year old girl asks 390 questions a day….

    Feeling more sorry for myself now…!


  6. Glad I’m in good company then. My mother (who helps with the children during the week) has resorted to saying “Because the sky is so high” to my two year-old’s incessant “why Nanima?” It’s the only response that will stop him. If I just say “Because”, he’ll say “No Mummy, don’t say that.” and then he asks the question again. Ignoring him doesn’t work either 🙂

    In a way I guess it’s good to know they’re thinking about stuff.


  7. For future reference, cauliflower is quite high in vit c – about half your daily requirement. Result! It still tastes a bit mank tho. Give them a kiwi instead…
    The questions never end in this house, generally they’re the Big Ones: Why is life not fair? is a favourite. Also, What happens when you die? (followed by: How sad would you be if I died?), and, currently: Why does the guvenment say I have to go to school? I alternate between not listening, and saying “why do you think…” (Then I threaten them with cauliflower if they don’t shut up)


    • Good knowledge on the cauliflower front. It’s still not going to make him want to eat it. I may, however, keep it in as a handy missile – good tip! (Have just read your comment again and realise that saying “I threaten them with cauliflower” doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to throw it at them. I think you probably meant that you’d ask them to eat it. Oops.)
      We get big questions too. My favourite was “Is Jesus coming back again on Sunday?”. I hadn’t been aware that he’d popped back the first time. It seems my 3 yo has been privy to his own personal Second Coming. Pretty exciting stuff.


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